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School of Arts, Languages and Cultures

Sing for Water event, London

Research news and events

Arts Research is a biannual newsletter produced in January and September.

Arts Research newsletter front cover

Issue 1

Arts Research newsletter, September 2013 (PDF)

Read Arts Research online

Arts Research newsletters can also be viewed as online booklets using Issuu:

Research seminars, conferences and development activities

We hold research conferences and seminars across the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures throughout the year. Each year CIDRAL (Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Arts and Languages) supports themed, interdisciplinary lecture and masterclass series' given by prominent international researchers.

Cultural Nationalism v Cultural Imperialism: The battle over foreign schools in Iran under Reza Shah Pahlavi

A Classics and Ancient History seminar that took place on Wednesday, 13 March 2013.

Speaker information

Rudolph Matthee is Munroe Professor of Middle East History at the University of Delaware (Newark, Delaware). He is a world-leading authority on Safavid Iran (1501-1722) but his research has also covered later periods (Qajar and Pahlavi Iran) with a special focus on Iran’s cultural interactions with the outside world, on reforms and modernisation, especially education, as well as on modes of consumption and the history of everyday life. Professor Matthee’s books include Persia in Crisis: Safavid Decline and the Fall of Isfahan (London: I.B. Tauris, 2012); The Politics of Trade in Safavid Iran: Silk for Silver, 1600-1730 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd ed. 2006); The Pursuit of Pleasure: Drugs and Stimulants in Iranian History, 1500-1900 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).

Abstract

Until World War II, foreign schools played an important role in educating the upper classes in Iran, a country that until the 1920s had few modern public educational facilities and only one home-grown secondary institution. My presentation will address the place of the non-missionary foreign schools—French, German, Russian, and American—in the country’s education system. The focus of the talk will be the period between 1918 and 1940, the early part of which was marked by competition between France, Germany and the Anglo-Saxon countries to have their respective educational (and cultural) models adopted by Iran for its emerging higher educational system. In the late 1920s, as Iran’s cultural nationalism took flight under an increasingly confident Reza Shah, all this became a moot point: Instead of being able to push for educational pre-eminence, Western diplomats and resident educators now faced a government that placed growing restrictions on their activities and that, eventually, moved to close their schools altogether.

Persia in Crisis: Safavid Decline and the Fall of Isfahan (1722)

A Middle Eastern Studies research seminar that took place on Thursday, 14 March 2013.

Speaker information

Rudolph Matthee is Munroe Professor of Middle East History at the University of Delaware (Newark, Delaware). He is a world-leading authority on Safavid Iran (1501-1722) but his research has also covered later periods (Qajar and Pahlavi Iran) with a special focus on Iran’s cultural interactions with the outside world, on reforms and modernisation, especially education, as well as on modes of consumption and the history of everyday life. Professor Matthee’s latest book Persia in Crisis: Safavid Decline and the Fall of Isfahan (London: I.B. Tauris, 2012), which will be the focus of his talk, was awarded the 2012 British-Kuwait Friendship Society Book Prize in Middle Eastern Studies. Other books by Professor Matthee include The Politics of Trade in Safavid Iran: Silk for Silver, 1600-1730 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd ed. 2006) and The Pursuit of Pleasure: Drugs and Stimulants in Iranian History, 1500-1900 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).

Abstract

The decline and fall of Safavid Iran in the early 18th century is traditionally seen as the natural outcome of the unrelieved political stagnation and moral degeneration which characterized late Safavid Iran. In my presentation I challenge this view. To do so, I first draw attention to the difficulty of harnessing resources in Iran, given the country’s physical environment, its tribal makeup and a small economic base. State-society interaction was thus characterized by a series of tensions between centrifugal and centripetal tendencies. To keep this balance tilted toward central control, even the strongest ruler was forced to engage in multiple negotiated alliances ranging from marriage deals with elites to tributary arrangements with peripheral tribal groups. In the late 17th century the forces of fragmentation began to prevail. The reasons for this include an increasingly detached, palace-bound shah who no longer patrolled his realm, giving rise to increasing levels of factionalism, corruption and oppression; a reduced inflow of money and the regime’s short-sighted way of dealing with this issue, which exacerbated rather than alleviated the problem; the regime’s neglect of the military resulting in the country’s growing vulnerability to outside attack; and above all weakening link between the capital and the, mostly tribal and mostly Sunni periphery as a result on a growing emphasis on the Shi’i character of the polity and an unwillingness to maintain alliances with the people on the tributary margins—the Lezghis, the Turkmen, the Baluchis, and, most fatally, the Afghans.

Digital Humanities conference and project

Digital Humanities @ Manchester

This conference took place at Manchester Museum on Friday, 8 November 2013.

Digital Humanities (DH) has grown rapidly in importance in recent years, as interest turns away from technology as an instrumental tool simply for resource discovery and access and towards the need to identify and solve new research challenges for the humanities. This impetus lies behind the Jisc, NEH, AHRC and ESRC Digging into Data Challenge, and the AHRC’s strategic development of its 'Digital Transformations' theme and its latest incarnation as a large grant theme for capacity-building and transformative projects of up to £1.5 million. The potential to develop Digital Humanities at Manchester has long been recognised by many stakeholders, and indeed there is no shortage of related activity within the University. As one of the largest concentrations of humanities scholars in the UK, surrounded in turn by the enviable breadth of expertise provided by the University’s technologists and librarians, the University could be a fertile ground for Digital Humanities research. 

#DHManchester

The aim of the conference was to foster discussion that explores the potential for Digital Humanities, to showcase existing initiatives within the University, and to identify both the challenges and opportunities for such work at The University of Manchester. The intention being that the conference will act as springboard for a major initiative to develop this area of activity in the future. 

The event was held at the Kanaris Theatre in the Manchester Museum, and concluded with a dinner reception hosted in the Museum's Fossil Room.

External speakers included Professor Melissa Terras (UCL) who spoke on her new book, Defining Digital Humanities, Professor Massimo Riva (Brown University) who addressed "Visualization: A New Paradigm for the Digital Humanities?" and also Professor Marilyn Deegan (Kings College London) who spoke on the impact of Digital Humanities.

Conference organisers

  • Matthew Philpotts (Senior Lecturer in German Studies)
  • Joy Palmer (Senior Manager, Mimas)
  • Guyda Armstrong (Senior Lecturer in Italian Studies)
  • Kostas Arvanitis (Lecturer in Museology)
  • Stuart Campbell (Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology)
  • Rose Goodier (Academic Engagement Librarian)
  • Frank Manista (Community Engagement, Mimas)
  • Adrian Stevenson (Technical Innovations Coordination, Mimas) 
  • Carmel Dickinson (Programme Manager, Manchester Informatics) 
  • Rachel Kirkwood (Research Services Librarian)
  • Abigail Gilmore (Senior Lecturer in Arts Management)

Data Visualizations as an Introduction to Computational Thinking

Presented by Mia Ridge, Digital Humanities PhD Student, Digital Consultant, Chair of the UK Museums Computer Group and former Lead Web Developer at the Science Museum Group.

On 7 November 2013, the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures hosted an afternoon workshop for University academics and post-graduates; the event was aimed at exploring the skills and literacies researchers might need as potential digital humanists. This informal, hands on event was intended to provide an opportunity for academics, post-grads to start to 'think like a programmer' and learn some computational thinking. Participants were introduced to new methodologies and tools, including those for manipulating and analysing data using visualization tools. No technological expertise in these areas, only a laptop, curiosity and a willingness to experiment.

Workshop outline

Participants were introduced to basic concepts in software code, provided with an overview of visualization techniques and guided through the process of creating simple data visualizations.

Goals of the session

  • Provide opportunity for academics, post-grads to start to 'think like a programmer' and learn some computational thinking
  • Learn and put into practice some skills for accessing, manipulating and analysing data using visualization tools
  • Introduce new methodologies and tools
  • Demystify tools, think critically about what's happening 'under the hood', understand the impact of tool choice and data structures
  • Enable dialogue with technologists about project design and tool choice
  • Think about the skills, literacies Digital Humanists need.

Development activities

Digital Humanities @ Manchester is a scoping project to develop the immense potential for Digital Humanities in the Faculty and beyond. A briefing report drafted by Mimas last year showed that Digital Humanities can drive increases in a number of key areas, including world-class research, impact and knowledge transfer, building collaborations across and outside the University, social responsibility and business development, and marketing and recruitment.

Project team

The project team are consulting widely and working to find suitable models for sustaining the appropriate technical and human infrastructures, implementing ways of measuring the impact of DH activities, and determining the identity, purpose and scope of DH within an institution like the University of Manchester.

The scoping project team are:

  • Guyda Armstrong (Senior Lecturer in Italian Studies and Academic Lead, DH@Manchester)
  • Rachel Kirkwood (Research Services Librarian and Project Manager/Research Assistant, DH@Manchester)
  • Joy Palmer (Senior Manager, Mimas and DH@Manchester)

Please follow us on Twitter for news of the latest developments: @DH_UoM.

Innovative Language conference

Innovative Language Teaching and Learning at University: Enhancing the Learning Experience through Student Engagement

This conference took place on Friday, 28 June 2013 at the Manchester Conference Centre.

The School of Arts, Languages and Cultures organised the third annual conference in the 'Innovative language teaching and learning at university' series. Following great success in Newcastle (2011) and Bristol (2012), the 2013 one day event focused on student engagement. This series of conferences has been very successful in bringing together a wide range of colleagues involved in teaching language and university level, including teaching and research focussed academics. We wish to maintain the momentum, continuing to promote the dissemination of good practice; to foster a spirit of community and enquiry within the language teaching body and ultimately enhance the university teaching and learning.

Programme

Conference organisers

Noelia Alcarazo-López (Senior Language Tutor in Spanish)
Catherine Franc (Senior Language Tutor in French)
Susana Lorenzo-Zamorano (Senior Language Tutor in Spanish)
Annie Morton (Senior Language Tutor in French)

Sponsors

Other conferences

The 3rd British and Irish Contemporary Poetry Conference

The British and Irish Contemporary Poetry Conference was hosted by the Centre for New Writing old, 12 - 14 September 2013.

Between Heaven and Earth: Law, Ideology, and the Social Order in Late Antiquity

The International Late Antiquity Nework Meeting took place at John Rylands Library between 13 - 16 September 2012.

Ethnicity, Race and Nationalism in European Media and Film: Rights, Responsibilities, Representations, International Conference

The Ethnicity, Race and Nationalism in European Media and Film Conference took place at The University of Manchester, between 23 - 25 May 2013.

The Manchester Phonology Meeting

The Manchester Phonology Meeting has been held every May at Hulme Hall since 1993, and is one of the world's leading phonology conferences.

New Researchers Forum in Linguistics

The New Researchers Forum in Linguistics took place between 2 - 3 November 2012, jointly hosted by The University of Manchester and the University of Salford.

Institute for Cultural Practices conferences

Institute for Cultural Practices Conference Archive.